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Not Knowing English Doesn’t Make You Stupid

It was recorded in 2016 that 18 million naturalized citizens, 13 million legal non citizens, and 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently live in the United States. Does that mean all 42 million immigrants speak and are perfect in English? When you step onto a subway, a busy street, a bus, or anywhere with a crowd, you can hear that not everyone is speaking English. You could be hearing a mix of Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, French, German, or any language out of the millions spoken in the world.

The immigrants who live in the United States enjoy and are comfortable in speaking their native language. So why do they feel pressured to learn and perfect their English? The answer lies in the way immigrants are treated for having a different language as their mother tongue. Many people in America are bothered and dislike when someone doesn’t speak English.

Last year, Buzzfeed released a video on children of immigrants talking about how their parent’s speak “broken English.” When asked, “what makes learning English hard for your parents,” one girl said:

“Because her priorities were always work, work, work in order to survive, she had no time and energy to dedicate to learning English.”

Later in the video she mentions that her mom felt “uneducated” and “stupid” because she didn’t know fluent and proper English. This type of feeling is not uncommon among immigrants.

Last year, at a presidential rally, Donald trump said,

“We’re a nation that speaks English and I think while we’re in this nation, we should be speaking English. That’s how assimilation takes.”

By saying this, President Trump affects all immigrants who don’t know proper English. Does this mean they won’t assimilate into society because they don’t know English?

Many immigrants become successful without knowing English in America. Feliz Sanchez de la Vega Guzman for example, created a $19 million manufacturing company by selling tortillas in America. By having his market based on Hispanic, he didn’t need English to turn his business into a success. Zhan Yulong, another immigrant, made $30 million by creating a business from cellphone accessories. These people have made it big and are successful without forcing themselves to learn the English language.

Knowing or not knowing a language does not reflect on the education and personality of a person. Not everyone will know English in America and not everyone should be expected to know English either.

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Arusha Kumria
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Arusha Kumria is an Indian-American 17 year old from New York. In her free time she likes to read and write. She is very passionate about women's rights and equality.

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